Gender mainstreaming is the leading strategy to improve gender equality by centralizing gender perspectives in the groundwork, planning, execution, and evaluation of policies, regulations, and programs. United Nations Peacekeeping has been at the vanguard of gender mainstreaming. However, after twenty-eight years, United Nations Peacekeeping has experienced little success with gender mainstreaming, with less than ten percent of women participating in its operations. The limited success of gender mainstreaming has been due to sociocultural beliefs and systemic policies that have curtailed women’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations. Sociocultural norms have shaped attitudes and stereotypes, which have resulted in low retention and promotion of women in UN peacekeeping operations. The United Nations should increase the participation of women in their Peacekeeping mission by enacting policies supporting gender equality, active engagement with women’s organizations, and integrative programs such as mentorships and joint training.
Gender mainstreaming has been one of the top strategies adopted by the United Nations to improve gender equality in the United Nations Peacekeeping missions and the world. Gender mainstreaming was initially launched in the United Nations in 1995 through the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. In over two decades, gender mainstreaming in United Nations peacekeeping operations has yet to achieve its objectives (United Nations, 1996). By the end of 2021, only 7.8 % of all uniformed military, police, justice, and correction personnel in field missions will be women (United Nations, 2022). After two decades, the low percentage of women in the United Nations Peacekeeping missions is a testament to the challenges facing gender mainstreaming, including institutional biases and sociocultural norms in different countries and societies. Gender mainstreaming has therefore been considerably undercut by the embedded cultural beliefs that women are the weaker sex and the discriminatory institutional legislation. For example, the legislation that pregnancy becomes an automatic reason for termination is inherently discriminatory.
Gender mainstreaming strives to integrate gender perspectives into political, economic, and social systems with the core objective of revolutionizing international policy and practice. However, it is fundamentally curtailed by cultural norms defining women’s perceptions. The United Nations Peacekeeping missions face difficulties in achieving their objective of gender equality due to the belief that women are lowering the quality of military and police forces in the field missions. Typically, these beliefs are based on the stereotypes that women are weaker than men. Therefore, women’s participation in the United Nations Peacekeeping operations is characterized by low retention and promotion of women. The United Nations can resolve these challenges by designing mentorship programs between the women joining the forces and existing males. Further, a blend of policy frameworks supporting gender equality, active engagement with women’s organizations, and integrative efforts such as mentorships can improve the participation of women in the United Nations Peacekeeping missions. The United Nations should develop programs which inspire women training and mentorships to improve the confidence of the senior officers in the credibility and skills of the women joining the peacekeeping missions.
Gender mainstreaming strives to adopt a gender-sensitive approach to international policy and practice by emphasizing the centrality of gendered social norms and power dynamics in the opportunities accessible to men and women. Through a gendered lens, gender mainstreaming aims to integrate gender equality in preparing, designing, and implementing political frameworks and social systems. The notion of gender mainstreaming has increasingly gained prevalence in the present times as national governments, multinational corporations, and international institutions acknowledge its role in attaining gender equality. Further, gender mainstreaming has been widely considered a prerequisite to socioeconomic development. The United Nations has played a significant role in introducing gender mainstreaming (Hutchings, 2008). The concept of gender mainstreaming emerged in the United Nations during the Vienna Declaration in 1993. Since 1993, numerous legislations and policies have centralized the role of gender in international policy, including the Fourth UN Conference on Women (1995) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action (1996). Gender mainstreaming has continually challenged discrimination and promoted gender equality by identifying gender issues in policies, regulations, and programs. The notion is underpinned by the belief that changes in an organization’s processes result in beneficial outcomes for both men and women (True, 2010).
The United Nations Peacekeeping Operations have strived to integrate gender mainstreaming to promote equality between men and women. Gender mainstreaming embodies the reformulation and revitalization of international relations theories by integrating gender-sensitive perspectives into peacekeeping. Women have fundamentally improved operations and performance by diversifying decision-making. Moreover, gender mainstreaming has focused on increasing the number of women in peacekeeping missions. Gender mainstreaming has insisted that having more women in the United Nations Peacekeeping operations is crucial because more women in the mission will likely improve the operations’ access to the communities. While gender mainstreaming was introduced in 1995, it has experienced little success in achieving its role of facilitating gender equality. The main challenge to the optimal participation of women in the United Nations peacekeeping missions includes sociocultural biases and stereotypes (True, 2010). Gender integration in governments and international institutions is fundamentally impeded by the deep-seated cultural beliefs and norms which shape people’s attitudes toward women. The participation of women in United Nations peacekeeping is undercut by the beliefs that women are not qualified or even strong enough to fulfill some roles, such as the military.
Further, social norms play a significant role in the legislation and policies in the existing institutions. The social norms fundamentally affect women’s participation in peacekeeping by defining and shaping the work environment, which affects the turnover rate, job satisfaction, and promotion rates of women in these roles. For example, the introduction of legislation allowing women to join the military was contested significantly in Ireland (Dharmapuri, 2013). Besides, policies such as those mandate that the moment women get pregnant, they automatically become terminated illustrate the innate inequalities facilitated by sociocultural beliefs and biases. Therefore, it is increasingly vital for the United Nations to develop strategies to deal with these sociocultural norms and the accompanying systemic discriminatory policies to increase the participation of women in the United Nations Peacekeeping missions and achieve its objective of promoting equality.
The primary strategy United Nations Peacekeeping mission can increase the participation of women in its operations and improve the success of gender mainstreaming is through a mixture of legislative frameworks supporting gender equality, active engagement with women’s organizations, and integrative programs such as mentorships. The United Nations is faced with the challenge of changing people’s attitudes toward women, their credibility and their reliability in traditionally male roles such as in the military and the police forces. Typically, the first step is to enact policies which promote gender inequality by inherently dispossessing women. For instance, the legislation in military forces which advocates the immediate termination of women when they get pregnant needs to be restructured to be more supportive of women in their different roles as mothers. The legislation can fundamentally offer women paid maternity leaves and reassignments instead of outright terminations (Dharmapuri, 2013). United Nations should fundamentally collaborate with military organizations to improve the gender sensitivity of their policies and programs.
Active engagement with women’s organizations is another crucial strategy for improving the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming, as it will aid the United Nations Peacekeeping to be constantly aware of the needs and issues of women in specific regions and environments. The United Nations Peacekeeping needs a barometer to keep up with the continually evolving women’s issues. Gender mainstreaming involves emphasizing the role of gender in different contexts; hence it is imperative to maintain active interactions with women’s organizations to ensure that the organization is aware of the issues it needs to address and the best ways of dealing with them (Dharmapuri, 2013). Moreover, the active engagement between the United Nations peacekeeping missions and women’s organizations fundamentally allows the UN to clarify its stance on gender equality and its strategies for achieving them. Therefore, active engagement is crucial for the success of gender mainstreaming in UN Peacekeeping missions as it gains the UN more supporters while delineating the significance of having more women in peacekeeping operations.
Negative attitudes about women primarily emerge from sociocultural beliefs about women being weak; hence, these can be alleviated through integrative programs such as mentorship between the senior officers and newly recruited women. It is widely believed that women lower the quality of military and police forces of the United Nations Peacekeeping operations (Dharmapuri, 2013). Training and mentorship programs where women can demonstrate their skills and credibility to their fellow officers can help fight the negative attitudes about them. Mentorships can help the women in the military and police dimension of the United Nations Peacekeeping missions by building their credibility and improving the trust of their fellow officers in their skills and ability (United Nations, 2022). The mentorship and training programs can also aid in improving the retention, joining, and promotion of women in peacekeeping operations.
Hutchings, K. (2008). 1988 and 1998: Contrast and continuity in feminist international relations. Millennium, 37(1), 97-105.
True, J. (2010). Mainstreaming gender in international institutions. In Gender matters in global politics (pp. 215-229). Routledge.
United Nations (1996). Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted at the fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, p. 4-15 September 1995, Available at https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/pdf/BDPfA%20E.pdf
United Nations. (2022). Women in peacekeeping. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/women-peacekeeping
Dharmapuri, S. (2013). Not just a numbers game: increasing women’s participation in UN peacekeeping.